The Week Ahead

      Tuesday, Sept. 26, 10 a.m.  --  The Conference Board's index of consumer 
      confidence probably stood at 100 in September, down from the 101 reading in 
      August. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, 
      one of The McGraw-Hill Companies. A reading of 100 would indicate that 
      consumers are upbeat enough to keep their spending on an upward track.
      Tuesday, Sept. 26  --  The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve 
      will meet to set monetary policy for the next six weeks. The MMS forecast calls 
      for no cut in the federal funds rate, now at 5.75%. The steep gains in August 
      retail sales and industrial production justify no change in rates. However, a 
      small quarter-point cut could be warranted under a policy guideline called 
      Taylor's rule, which attempts to balance economic growth and inflation targets. 
      Fed policy under Chairman Alan Greenspan has tracked this rule closely. Also, 
      the inflation-adjusted federal funds rate is high. The Fed cut the federal 
      funds rate by a quarter point on July 6.
      Wednesday, Sept. 27, 8:30 a.m.  --  New orders for durable goods likely rose 2% 
      in August, reversing their 1.7% drop in July, says the MMS forecast. That's 
      indicated by the 1.4% increase in the output of durable goods last month. New 
      orders for autos and light trucks likely led the gain, but demand for other 
      products probably increased as well. The backlog of unfilled orders probably 
      gained some ground after posting no change in July.
      Friday, Sept. 29, 8:30 a.m.  --  The MMS survey projects that new single-family 
      homes likely sold at an annual rate of 700,000 in August, down from the 715,000 
      pace in July. The August decline would be the first drop since April. Still, 
      home sales remain quite solid, thanks to low mortgage rates and good prospects 
      for income growth.